Publication details [#7391]

Liu, Chang Hong. 1994. Symbolic relations affect reaction time, recall and analogy but not metaphor. Toronto, Canada. 127 pp.


Two shapes - a circle and a square - were used to study the effects of form symbolism in cognitive tasks. The first experiment examined the degree of consensus between subjects matching a list of pairs of words with the pair of shapes. The second experiment examined the correlation between the degree of consensus and the reaction time required in the matching task. The third experiment examined whether the shapes could prime lexical access to the high consensus word pairs via a lexical decision task. The fourth and the fifth experiments examined the effect of the consensus on memory via a recall task. The sixth, seventh and eighth experiments examined the relationship between form symbolism, metaphor and analogy via a rating task. The main findings of these experiments indicate there was significant consensus between subjects in tasks assessing form symbolism. Also, levels of consensus predicted reaction time on the matching task but not reaction time on the lexical decision task. Levels of consensus also predicted performance on the memory task. The shapes were rated as good symbols and analogies when they involved the high consensus pairs, but the ratings were poor for metaphors using these pairs. The reaction time experiments suggest form symbolism is a constructive process, in which subjects find relevant common features of the symbol and the referent. The memory experiments suggest form symbols can be mnemonics for recall. The mnemonic device may involve organizing the list of items to be recalled into groups fitting with the symbols. The metaphor, symbol and analogy experiments suggest form symbolism is more like analogy than metaphor. Form symbolism resembles analogy because both involve a mapping between systems of relationships, e.g., circle and square and other geometrical forms map onto mother and father and other family members. However, subjects discriminate the direction of symbolism more than they discriminate the directions of analogies. Symbols generally failed to be metaphors, likely because metaphors involve class-inclusion (an A is said to be an example of a B) while symbols involve representation without class-inclusion (A represents B without being an example of a B). (Dissertation Abstracts)